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Performance enhancement for elite athletes (in sports employing quick power bursts such as sprinting and weight lifting)
+3 (Strong Evidence)
- Creatine (found in animal protein) is stored in muscle cells, and can provide a rapidly used energy source boost over a short period of time (several seconds to a minute). This can make it useful for high-performance elite athletes who seek to generate intense bursts of power.
- Creatine has a long safety record. The human body makes creatine from the amino acids in protein, and supplements can boost these levels.
- Creatine absorbs water when taken up into the muscle, resulting in increased muscle mass. While larger muscles are not actually stronger, they certainly may look bigger.
- Theoretically, in select sports, creatine may provide a performance edge to certain highly trained athletes. It improves strength, but not accuracy, in randomized studies, meaning the football player may throw the ball farther but unfortunately not to the intended receiver.
- Real improvements in muscle strength are made only by regular performance of appropriate strength training routines. There is no shortcut to strengthening muscles.
- Creatine is not likely to benefit folks who participate in endurance sports like long-distance running, biking, or cross-country skiing. Creatine is also not for the recreational athlete, and certainly not for the weekend warrior/weekday couch potato. Why not? Because it works for only an instant, and only at the top of an athletic performance, like turning an A+ into an A++. If you’re just an average Joe or Jane trying to increase your overall fitness, you’re better off spending your money on a good pair of walking shoes.
- Creatine supplements are a multimillion dollar industry. The vast majority of consumers are spending large amounts of money for a supplement that is unlikely to be of much, if any, benefit.
* *ADVISORY* *
Concerns exist about kidney function with prolonged and/or excessive use, the combined use of certain medications or with dehydration. We recommend that you work with your medical provider to consider drug interactions or special safety concerns.
DOSAGE:Creatine supplementation begins with a large “loading dose” of 5 to 10 grams, 2-3 times daily for 3-4 days and is then decreased to a “maintenance dose” of 1 to 2.5 grams, twice daily.
CONCLUSION:Creatine is a safe and effective product for improving performance in elite athletes competing in specific sports. It may provide a competitive edge by allowing a small incremental improvement in power over a short period of time. The vast majority of “recreational athletes” will not realize performance improvement. Creatine increases water content in muscles, which adds body weight and mass, but not necessarily strength. This supplement is not for couch potatoes. If you do elect to try it, remember to include it in your list of medications when you visit your doctor and other health care providers.
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Johnston, A.P.W. et al. Effect of Creatine Supplementation During Cast-Induced Immobilization on the Preservation of Muscle Mass, Strength, and Endurance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (2009) 23, 116-120
Kendall, K.L. et al. Effects of Four Weeks of High-Intensity Interval Training and Creatine Supplementation on Critical Power and Anaerobic Working Capacity in College-Aged Men. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (2009) 23(6):1663-1668
Betts, J.A. et al. Systemic indices of skeletal muscle damage and recovery of muscle function after exercise: effect of combined carbohydrate-protein ingestion. Appl. Physiol. Nutr. Metab. (2009) 34:773-784